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I’ve been concerned about HR and Legal sometimes ganging up on Compliance. I know all want to reach the best results, but sometimes they seem to interfere with each other. I think that the differences occur because HR and Legal are risk averse while Compliance deals in risk management and therefore Compliance is willing to work its way through a risk rather than simply avoid it completely. So where does this manifest itself? The worst or perhaps best example I have seen is when an employee is discharged or disciplined for a serious breach and Compliance wants to use the event and the facts leading up to it as a “lesson learned.”
HR and Legal often react saying that there is potential liability and that silence is the best course. The result of this is that the perpetrator is the only one talking about the incident and he or she is always describing the event to his or her friends in ways that make the company look irrational and make him or her look like a victim. Perpetrators are very good at making themselves look like victims. The better course would be to allow Compliance to discuss the general lessons learned. There is no need to name anyone and if the termination or other discipline was properly handled, the likelihood of legal action often is remote. But the value of the lessons learned is significant.
Interestingly, I’ve seen the best results, when Legal, HR and Compliance get together and discuss objectively what can be used in a “lessons learned” environment. So Legal, HR and Compliance, please, talk to each other.
Bart M. Schwartz is the chairman of Guidepost Solutions LLC, a global leader in investigations, due diligence, security and technology consulting, immigration and cross-border consulting, and monitoring and compliance solutions.